40 Encounters with Jesus
Category: Christian Life & Discipleship
Questions, questions: why is life so full of questions? If Jesus Asked, Conrad's last book, set your mind in a spin, this one's going to set it spinning faster! One thing this book won't do is make the questions go away.
I've been reading it on the bus on my way into work — its 40 chapters are just the right length for that sort of breakfast time approach. Each one starts with a Bible reading taken from the TNIV (Today's New International Version) New Testament followed by Conrad's comments and finishes up with a couple of questions and suggestions for further thought. If you haven't already discovered the TNIV, this is a great way to try it, fresh & funky where the NIV was getting old & clunky. Did I mention that Conrad was on the panel of translators?
Before I go any further, I feel obliged to tell you that Conrad is personal friend of mine: if you're looking for dispassionate, detached observations you are so in the wrong place. Conrad's to blame for a lot of things in my life: he taught me to read the Bible with my eyes open (did you know that you can read it with them closed? Bizarre!), introduced me to Apple Macs, dragged me back to LST to run the bookshop when I thought I'd left, and started me down the road of writing book reviews. But most important, he always points me to Jesus. You want to get to know Jesus? Get the Gempf.
Mealtimes, huh? It's about spending time, developing relationships... and when the guy you're spending time with is the Messiah, you can't help picking up on some of his habits. That's what Conrad's doing here: giving us time with Jesus. Not all the encounters are mealtime situations. You'll read about 1st Century Coke machines, miscellaneous miracles, exorcisms and arguments with the religious leaders that make folks like Conrad and myself feel distinctly uncomfortable: are we anything like the Pharisees of old? Jesus didn't pull his punches when it came to religious hypocrisy: if you're a religious type, if you know what's right & wrong, watch out!
And if you're not a religious type, you'd better watch out too: you're one of the people Jesus wants to spend time with. Climb a tree if you're worried, but even then you're not safe.
I rarely read one book at a time and I've been reading this alongside Erwin Raphael McManus' The Barbarian Way so I've been forced to do double the thinking. Dining with Jesus is a dangerous business: Christianity is not a safe religion. "Not even a sparrow falls from the sky without God taking notice," writes Conrad. "But sparrows do fall from the sky." I'd love to see these guys write a book together: awesome.
Mealtime Habits of the Messiah? Food for thought for anyone who wants to know Jesus better, leaving you with an appetite for more. Thank you, Conrad; can't wait for the next one.
Phil Groom, June 2005
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.Zondervan | Order from www.christianbookshops.org | Order from St Andrew's Bookshops
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